Author Topic: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?  (Read 1314 times)

Randy Ott

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #30 on: January 21, 2018, 04:24:21 AM »
There is a joy I have derived from magnifying objects. It started with an inexpensive plastic magnifier as a boy. Then my parents got me a microscope a friend was tossing out. Constructed for high school science, so I was able to create sample trays of many things to look at. Then came binoculars and watching things far off. During my tour in Vietnam, each bunker on our perimeter had night vision Binos. Loved using them. Jewelers loop for examining the mechanisms of vintage watchers and tiny stuff; now my telescope for pin points of light. I think what I like most is getting up close and looking at our world on a different level (scale).

The adventure with optics fascinates me; looking at things I don't normally see day to day. Making me realize that the world I see is far bigger than my views and stretches far beyond my limits and biases.

excunisep

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #31 on: January 23, 2018, 02:29:44 AM »
My fascination is with the objects, not my optics. I understand the optics well enough to know how to improve my observing and handle issues with my equipment, but I'm not interested in becoming one of those people who spend more time tweaking their equipment than observing. Equipment issues are an inconvenience to be rectified as quickly as possible so as to return to observing.

wagishohots

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #32 on: January 23, 2018, 03:56:29 AM »
Quote
My fascination is with the objects, not my optics. I understand the optics well enough to know how to improve my observing and handle issues with my equipment, but I'm not interested in becoming one of those people who spend more time tweaking their equipment than observing. Equipment issues are an inconvenience to be rectified as quickly as possible so as to return to observing.

Most astronomers do the tweaking and handle the "issues" on cloudy nights or during the day, so as to be prepared after nightfall. YMMV.

laucongsnagal

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #33 on: January 23, 2018, 11:36:26 AM »
It doesn't have to be, but it depends on how deep you are into it, whether it's a hobby, a passion or how you came about it in the first place.

Also, in this app world and punch button world, a lot of the new amateurs don't have a clue how that thingie that points up does what it does, it just provides magic either at the eyepiece or the camera. Some of them could care less, like someone else pointed out about the automobile. I still cringe when people call what's under the hood a motor instead of an engine. Okay, so that's what they call it in Jolly Old'e Englande' but not here in the You Ess And A.

Being mechanically and electrically inclined, starting as a young spud, it came naturally to me.

I started with a 60mm (that's 2.4-inches for those of you not familiar with the metric system) refractor. It was terrible mechanically and I could barely find the moon with it. I wanted larger, but could not afford anything, and my parents couldn't either. This was 1966. So...the only other solution was to build it because mirror grinding kits WERE much, much cheaper. I pressed and talked my parents into an 8-inch kit instead of the usual 6-inch which was what most started with.

Talk about a crash course in mirror making and optics! Plus the fact that I am terrible at math!

On the other hand, I had a mentor who helped guide me through the process and in a little under two years, I had my first Newtonian reflector scope with a "huge" 8-inch f/9.44 focal ratio mirror. I had terrible eyepieces but at least I had all that aperture and could actually see stuff. I made my own equatorial mount with friction clutches and everything.

Like I say, I came into this already mechanically inclined, so I was always a do-it-yourselfer. If I'd had money, I might not have learned as much but being mechanically inclined, I still probably would've taken an interest in optics up to a point. Over the decades, I built many scopes up to the 16-inch f/6.4 which I'm now trying to sell.

Nowadays, I'm strictly a visual observer and use a commercial Dob because it's more easy to get around than my f/6.4 beast. However, I've never forgot my roots.

Did I need all that optics and mechanical stuff to enjoy visual observing?

Not really.

It was just a very enjoyable side benefit of this wide-ranging passion.

On the other hand, I have no interest WHATSOEVER in imaging.

Another aspect of the passion that's for others like astrophysics or actual astronomy, which I have no interest in either.

No, you don't need to know a thing about optics except how to align the scope if you use a reflector.

If it don't work right, call the help desk, get on these forums or ask a friend.

erparepe

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #34 on: January 23, 2018, 04:51:11 PM »
Quote
It doesn't have to be, but it depends on how deep you are into it, whether it's a hobby, a passion or how you came about it in the first place.

Also, in this app world and punch button world, a lot of the new amateurs don't have a clue how that thingie that points up does what it does, it just provides magic either at the eyepiece or the camera. Some of them could care less, like someone else pointed out about the automobile. I still cringe when people call what's under the hood a motor instead of an engine. Okay, so that's what they call it in Jolly Old'e Englande' but not here in the You Ess And A.

Being mechanically and electrically inclined, starting as a young spud, it came naturally to me.

I started with a 60mm (that's 2.4-inches for those of you not familiar with the metric system) refractor. It was terrible mechanically and I could barely find the moon with it. I wanted larger, but could not afford anything, and my parents couldn't either. This was 1966. So...the only other solution was to build it because mirror grinding kits WERE much, much cheaper. I pressed and talked my parents into an 8-inch kit instead of the usual 6-inch which was what most started with.

Talk about a crash course in mirror making and optics! Plus the fact that I am terrible at math!

On the other hand, I had a mentor who helped guide me through the process and in a little under two years, I had my first Newtonian reflector scope with a "huge" 8-inch f/9.44 focal ratio mirror. I had terrible eyepieces but at least I had all that aperture and could actually see stuff. I made my own equatorial mount with friction clutches and everything.

Like I say, I came into this already mechanically inclined, so I was always a do-it-yourselfer. If I'd had money, I might not have learned as much but being mechanically inclined, I still probably would've taken an interest in optics up to a point. Over the decades, I built many scopes up to the 16-inch f/6.4 which I'm now trying to sell.

Nowadays, I'm strictly a visual observer and use a commercial Dob because it's more easy to get around than my f/6.4 beast. However, I've never forgot my roots.

Did I need all that optics and mechanical stuff to enjoy visual observing?

Not really.

It was just a very enjoyable side benefit of this wide-ranging passion.

On the other hand, I have no interest WHATSOEVER in imaging.

Another aspect of the passion that's for others like astrophysics or actual astronomy, which I have no interest in either.

No, you don't need to know a thing about optics except how to align the scope if you use a reflector.

If it don't work right, call the help desk, get on these forums or ask a friend.

Maybe we need to distinguish between telescope owners and amateur astronomers. Sometimes those two are not really synonymous.

Chris Smale

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #35 on: January 31, 2018, 06:44:23 AM »
Quote
This thread is actually yet another version of the "what is the definition of an astronomer" puzzle.
Is someone who knows the rules of golf, watches golf on TV, knows the names of the famous golfers, but who has never actually used a golf club, a golfer?

An astronomer is not an optician. Some people are both.

halubicom

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #36 on: January 31, 2018, 06:49:22 AM »
Quote
<p class="citation">QuoteI would venture a guess that your wife is not an "astronomer," even if she does sometimes look through the telescopes that you have.


In some ways she's actually a more dedicated amateur astronomer than I am, she studies and reads more about the science than I do.[/quote]

My definition is rather broad...an amateur astronomer is a person who, on any schedule that pleases them, recurringly observes (naked eye, borroed optics, their own optics) the evening sky and studies it to any degree (and "studies" is also broad, from just making mental notes of things - to casual familiarity - to delving deeply into the history or astrophysics of it).

Micheal Luther

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #37 on: January 31, 2018, 08:50:49 AM »
Quote
Quote
This thread is actually yet another version of the "what is the definition of an astronomer" puzzle.
Is someone who knows the rules of golf, watches golf on TV, knows the names of the famous golfers, but who has never actually used a golf club, a golfer?

An astronomer is not an optician. Some people are both.
Does someone who knows all about golf, but doesn't ever play golf, a golfer?

quelesmawea

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #38 on: January 31, 2018, 11:02:35 AM »
Quote
This thread is actually yet another version of the "what is the definition of an astronomer" puzzle.

Is someone who knows the rules of golf, watches golf on TV, knows the names of the famous golfers, but who has never actually used a golf club, a golfer?


"Should" every golfer manufacturer their own golf balls and golf clubs. Should every golfer build their own golf course?

This is the corrector analogy to:

"I think every astronomer, amateur or professional, should at some time construct a telescope and mount out of loose or surplus parts. They should also attempt to repair or improve an existing instrument of some type or other."

Having swung a golf club is analogous to having looked though a telescope.

"Should" every guitar player to build a guitar or every pianist to build a piano?

In any event, this is really off the topic. It is not necessary to be fascinated with optics to be a serious, committed amateur astronomer. I think that's quite clear.. I am a user of optics and fascinated with the views optics can provide but I am no Mike Spooner who can build an entire scope, reflector or refractor, focuser and all.

Jon Isaacs

Steven Tolbert

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #39 on: February 02, 2018, 03:10:03 PM »
Quote
Quote

This thread is actually yet another version of the "what is the definition of an astronomer" puzzle.

Is someone who knows the rules of golf, watches golf on TV, knows the names of the famous golfers, but who has never actually used a golf club, a golfer?


"Should" every golfer manufacturer their own golf balls and golf clubs. Should every golfer build their own golf course?

This is the corrector analogy to:

"I think every astronomer, amateur or professional, should at some time construct a telescope and mount out of loose or surplus parts. They should also attempt to repair or improve an existing instrument of some type or other."

Having swung a golf club is analogous to having looked though a telescope.

"Should" every guitar player to build a guitar or every pianist to build a piano?

In any event, this is really off the topic. It is not necessary to be fascinated with optics to be a serious, committed amateur astronomer. I think that's quite clear.. I am a user of optics and fascinated with the views optics can provide but I am no Mike Spooner who can build an entire scope, reflector or refractor, focuser and all.

Jon Isaacs
If you have never used a golf club, that could be used as evidence that you have never played golf and are therefore not a golfer. You could use a stick to bat around balls that are lying in the grass in your backyard and claim that you are playing "golf," I suppose. But if all you have ever done with golf is watch golf, read about golf or know about golf, then you cannot be called a golfer.

We are not talking in this case about amateur astronomer building telescopes, golfers making golf balls and clubs, or musicians making musical instruments, so your analogy is infinitely far off the mark. So yes, your analogy was off-topic.

Your wife might read extensively about astronomy, but if she didn't already live in a house full of telescopes, there is no evidence that she actually ever would buy, use or look through a telescope at all, except maybe as a visitor an outreach event.

There is no definition of "amateur astronomer" but there is such a thing as an amateur astronomer. We still probably want to be able to at least categorize people we know or meet as either astronomer or not-astronomer, for various practical reasons. So we come up with various criteria, not always explicitly stated, that help us gauge whether someone is or isn't an astronomer.

The building of or modification of telescopes or related accessories is an activity that is likely to so seriously shift the balance of evidence towards "astronomer" and to enhance one's practical knowledge of astronomy that it is something that everyone who considers him- or herself an astronomer should try to do. The telescope doesn't have to be expensive, fancy or high-powered, it just has to demonstrate that its builder is moving away from just the theoretical and towards the practical.

Kenneth Brown

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #40 on: February 02, 2018, 04:45:36 PM »
"Integral to astronomy" implies that "fascination with optics" is a defining characteristic.

If you are treating your telescope as a black box, it becomes harder to be considered an astronomer, unless perhaps you are doing scientific research with the black box.

Calvin Dolla

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #41 on: February 02, 2018, 07:57:26 PM »
One should be "fascinated enough with optics" to know that the blue halos you see around some objects that you view with your refractor are due to an optical aberration and not a characteristic of the objects themselves.

justgegentcal

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #42 on: February 02, 2018, 08:35:01 PM »
Quote
One should be "fascinated enough with optics" to know that the blue halos you see around some objects that you view with your refractor are due to an optical aberration and not a characteristic of the objects themselves.


Being the devil's advocate here...

I'm not so sure that they should. The reason I say that is because in real life with other technologies, this is not so; so then why force it on astronomy? Case in point would be automobiles. It is common that an auto will behave in such a way that all the operator will know is that it is unusual. Their course of action is then not to learn auto mechanics but to take it to an expert for diagnosis and correction if needed - many time walking out the door only learning one thing, that the unusual behavior is bad or no bad. Same thing for the human organism and going to doctors, most do not nor ever will understand the underlying biological processes causing the issue. And of course, more relevant to your case, people can go on forever thinking a certain way they feel or how their auto is operating is normal, when in fact it is not. No harm done as long as the issue is not critical. So I see no reason why an observer needs to know the whys, especially if they do not care to want to know. I have read from plenty of folks that they like the blue halos around stars and think it is pretty. If that is so, then they are happy campers and what may be a problem for you is a feature for them.

unllamerblood

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #43 on: February 02, 2018, 11:50:59 PM »
When you look up at the sky and for a brief moment your breath stops....you're an astronomer. Only optics required are your eyes. If you use a telescope/binoculars, you'll learn something about optics, if nothing else thru trial and error.

Mortimer Concepcion

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #44 on: February 03, 2018, 03:38:44 AM »
Quote

That is what we are talking about, that is exactly what you wrote:

"I think every astronomer, amateur or professional, should at some time construct a telescope and mount out of loose or surplus parts. They should also attempt to repair or improve an existing instrument of some type or other."

Enough said..

Jon